Beloved New York Times bestselling author Philip Kerr (1956-2018) takes readers back in time to 1928, providing an origin story of sorts for Bernie Gunther, in what’ll be his final novel following his untimely passing last year.
It’s summer in Berlin, and someone is killing prostitutes in gruesome, torturous fashion. After catching the eye of his higher-ups, who think he could one day blossom into a gifted detective, Bernie Gunther is finally called up the big leagues. Upon receiving his summons from Bernard Weiss, Bernie vacates his vice position to join the prestigious Berlin Murder Commission, where he’s handed the prostitution case and is tasked with bringing the killer, who has a fondness for scalping his victims, to justice.
Though he nabs a killer his first day on the job, it’s not the killer he’s desperately searching for. And tension only rises when another victim is found, prompting Bernie to consider alternative methods for tracking down the murderer.
Meanwhile, another killer by the name of “Dr. Gnadenschuss” has been taunting investigators, sending letters to the police to toy with them. Gnadenschuss, who targets WWI vets, and the prostitute killer have the city on edge, but it’s Gunther who blows the case wide open when he realizes the two killers may be one and the same—and agrees to go undercover in order to help apprehend the madman.
Without giving anything away, this story, in particular (which was completed just before his death), provides a fitting end to Kerr’s storied career which, in many ways, has now come full circle. Obviously, Bernie’s bosses were right in that he would one day go on to become a brilliant detective, but readers know that going into this one, having already followed him for thirteen previous cases. This one’s special, though, and while readers will certainly recognize Bernie’s wise-cracking voice and trademark banter, Kerr still managed to bring an innocent-like element to him not previously seen on the page until now.
In addition to the character development, Kerr’s writing is beautiful, and as always, he nailed the setting, which is brought to life with vivid descriptions throughout. There’s also a number of real-life historical characters weaved in, one of which explains the book’s title, and plenty of intrigue throughout. It’s incredibly sad that this is the end of the line for Bernie Gunther, but there’s no question—Kerr saved some of his best work for last.
Metropolis shows once again why Philip Kerr was one of the most talented novelists of his generation, and his final novel is one his fans won’t soon forget.
Author: Philip Kerr
Series: Bernie Gunther #14
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.